We are at the end of 2017 and it is commonplace to spend some time reviewing where we have come during the period.
It does appear though that the year was another mixed bag with a few bright spots. At best we could say that it has been a challenging year.
Vincentian born, N’Keal Harry II, currently into his second year at Arizona State University, has already distinguished himself as an outstanding Wide Receiver with his school, chalking up remarkable performances that are almost certain to have him attain an excellent draft into the prestigious National Football League in the USA.
Harry, who left St Vincent and the Grenadines at the age of four years to live with his grandmother in the USA, returned home to deliver a surprise to his mother and sister at the latter’s birthday party a few days before Christmas. His American College Football commitments however forced him to return to the USA before Christmas.
Harry is the first Vincentian to distinguish himself at the College level in the USA playing American Football.
Vincentian batsman, Sunil Ambris, eventually got the opportunity he has been relishing, earning a place on the West Indies cricket team on its tour of New Zealand.
Unfortunately for the young Ambris, his introduction on the team was not particularly favourable and it ended with an injury. There is still much hope for this young man.
In terms of commendations due this country was happy to see Shne Joachim pick up yet another Carifta medal, this time, bronze, in the 50m Breaststroke at the competition in the Bahamas. She was the first Vincentian to have won a medal for this country some years ago.
Shne and Alex Joachim have made their marks competing at meets in Canada where they now reside while pursuing their academic studies.
Vincentian swimmers continued to win medals at the annual OECS Championships as well as while participating in competitions in neighbouring Barbados.
Mention should be made of the fact that improved performances have led to significant increases in individuals taking to swimming and already the pool is fully subscribed for training.
St Vincent and the Grenadines earned 14 gold medals at the reintroduced Whitsuntide Games where age group competitions were featured.
12-year old Ulanda Lewis, stunned the nation with her remarkable performances during the year, leaving her older counterparts literally in the dust. Her come-from-behind victory for her Central Leeward Secondary School team in the 4 x 200m relay at the Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships, would long be remembered as one of the best ever seen in the country.
Although she made the standards for the annual Carifta Games for 2017 she could not participate due to age-restrictions. At 13 years however, once performing at her best and making the standard, she should be doing this country very proud.
Kishore Shallow has been elected to serve on Cricket West Indies as one of the organisation’s directors.
Attempts are being made to re-start the National Stadium Committee. This time around there are options on the table that were not readily available the last time this matter was being addressed.
Commendations are in order for the continued development of some of the sports facilities, some of which have been lit, affording sporting activities to take place for longer hours.
Sporting organisations in St Vincent and the Grenadines completed a 15-month programme that focused on physical literacy and long term athlete development (LTAD). 294 persons participated in the programme which was conducted by experts from Sport for Life (S4L) a Canadian institution. St Vincent and the Grenadines was one of six National Olympic Committees in the Caribbean involved in a pilot project in respect of the scientific approach to the physical activity and sport programmes. The others were Bahamas, Haiti, BVI, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Basketball, Table Tennis, Football, Taekwondo, Cycling, Swimming, Athletics and Paralympics each completed its own comprehensive LTAD Framework.
In 2018, attention would be placed on the implementation of the approved frameworks. Indeed, some have already started the implementation process.
TASVG has completed three months of a four-month programme focused in the systematic development of throwing events – Shot, Discus and Javelin – around St Vincent and the Grenadines. Athletes and coaches are being trained by Grenadian specialist throws coach, Paul Phillip. Areas of focus have been North Windward, Central Leeward, Bequia, Georgetown and Kingstown.
Three assessment programmes have been conducted and a number of athletes have been identified and involved in advanced training in the throws.
Sport faced several challenges during 2017. Here are some of the most critical ones.
QBR and VIP Room access
Perhaps the single biggest sporting faux pas was the denial of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association access to the VIP room at the Argyle International Airport on the occasion of the arrival and departure of the Queen’s Baton, in which is the Queen’s message, to be read at the official opening ceremony of the Games in 2018.
The Queen’s Baton Relay started at Buckingham Palace on Commonwealth Day in March of this year, on its journey to all of the Commonwealth nations, ending in Australia, where the Commonwealth Games 2018, would be hosted on the Gold Coast.
Since Delhi, India, won the right to host the Commonwealth Games of 2010, the Queen’s Baton Relay has included all of the members of the Commonwealth. Since then we have had unfettered access to the VIP lounges here, and included government officials in the programme of the reception at the airport.
Suddenly, in 2018, it appeared that the representatives of the Commonwealth Games Federation, the Gold Coast Organising Committee and our own St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association were all deemed unworthy of access to the VIP Lounge at the Argyle International Airport.
Unfortunately, for the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association, the Regional Vice President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mrs Fortuna Belrose, is from St Lucia and is a minister of government there. The embarrassment continues to plague us through to the Games scheduled for April 2018.
Creating sport zones
Despite several attempts at establishing Community Sport Councils, the National Sports Council (NSC) continues to miss the boat.
There are several sports facilities spread across the country but it remains a truism that their location and quality of development appear directly related to the political cause rather than genuine community development.
The nation was once given the impression that the playing field above and adjacent to the Central Leeward Secondary Schools (CLSS) was intended for the school, a feature quite common in many countries around the world. However, the facility is essentially cared for by the school more than anyone else. However, it appears that a request to have use of the small building on the field for storing athletics and more general sporting equipment has not met with the support of some officials, either acting independently or with concurrence of higher authority.
A proposal submitted by Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) for the creation of sport zones starting with the provision of equipment to the NSC to serve the communities in each of the zones was initially accepted by the NSC but later rejected.
The intention in making the original offer was for athletics to be used merely as the starting point. The idea was to eventually engage in other national sports associations to do likewise and so ensure that each zone was appropriately stocked with equipment from a number of sports practised in the country and in which we could develop elite athletes.
The development of Area Sport Committees should ideally be non-political. Sport is universal and cannot be restricted to only one set of people.
The more people we engage in physical activity and sport the more likely we are to develop a healthy nation and make progress in regional and international sport, the more we can facilitate a national sport culture in this country.
Sport builds character and enhances unity amongst peoples.
The strategy for the broader development of St Vincent and the Grenadines cannot exclude others because of their desire to support another political party. This results in a tribalism that can only divide the very people needed to facilitate progress.
Myopia never got a nation very far along the development continuum. St Vincent and the Grenadines is no different.
The stealing of sports equipment
Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines continues to be plagued by the stealing of its equipment at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. The most recent equipment stolen are two new discus implements.
The theft is being orchestrated by coaches who either engage in the practice themselves or encourage their athletes to do so.
One club that seems to be headquartered at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex has been found in possession of several pieces of equipment belonging to TASVG and from which they have not sought permission. This includes a number of new Gill Hurdles purchased by TASVG for competition purposes.
In one instance, a coach was found in the TASVG Store Room at the Complex. His explanation at the time of being discovered, “He saw the door open and stepped in to see why this was the case …. In any event, the association should be giving clubs and athletes equipment, what are they doing hiding equipment from people”.
One is uncertain as to why anyone, especially coaches, would be party to the stealing of equipment from the national governing body for the sport. The norm is for clubs to purchase their own equipment. Occasionally, a national body may deliberately make equipment available for use in established zones. However, this is not the case being referred to here. It is a matter of plain theft that has to be addressed for the good of the sport.
It is pathetic when we have coaches encouraging their athletes to engage in the practice of stealing equipment from the very national governing body they would hope has enough equipment to facilitate the development of the sport.